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Daily Nation : January 28th 2014
DAILY NATION Tuesday January 28, 2014 coverstory 3 PHOTO | MERCIY JUMA Faces of hunger: The National Drought Management Authority in Turkana is still talking of reviving irrigation schemes, but there is no indication of when this will be done. and the climate is not constant, like we want to believe. Arid and semi-arid areas will always be the first to be affected. The dry spells will become more frequent in the coming years,” he says. Policy documents But even with the recurrent droughts, no long -term solutions have been put in place. Many policy documents have been drafted, but none has been implemented. “We always wait until the last minute to act, even when early warning signs are given. The government then starts looking for relief food, which sometimes comes too late,” says Prof Odingo, For years the government has relied on food aid and donations in times of famine. USAID, a major food aid donor, spends billions of shillings feeding hunger-stricken Kenyans. Mary Elim has been receiving food from USAID and other donors for a long time. But for some reason, the donations have not come for several weeks. The mother of four returned home from the Lokichar Health Centre, where she had gone to give birth to her fourth born, only three days ago. She is weak from hunger and her breasts are dry. “I don’t remember the last time I ate. My throat is sore, and my stomach hurts. I cannot breastfeed my baby since there I don’t have even a drop of milk,” she explains. “Sometimes passers-by give me goat milk for her. She cries a lot and there is nothing I can do, so I just give her water,” says Elim. The situation is has grave consequences. Turkana County has a high number of malnourished children, with two out of every 10 children underweight, and three out of 10 stunted. “We expect the cases of malnutrition to rise when the drought sets in.” says John Ekiru, a nutritionist at Lodwar District Hospital. “Yet even as a county, we have not set any money aside for nutrition.” Severe drought Yet food security is possible in Turkana. In 2011, a severe drought, said to be the worst in 60 years, ravaged the horn of Africa. Kaikor Division in Turkana County bore the brunt. Women and children died of starvation and men cried because of hunger. A call was made, and was heeded by donors and well-wishers. Thus the Kenya for Kenyans initiative was born. A mid- to long-term integrated food security and livelihood project funded by Kenyans for Kenyans was started. The main aim was to provide another means of earning a livelihood to complement pastoralism, which has been marred by cyclic droughts and characterised by 2012 The year in which the Kenya Red Cross initiated a project in Kaikor Division in Turkana, which involved sinking four boreholes and installing solar panels. The project was preceded by a needs assessment and careful planning to ensure that it would be sustained resource-based conflicts and other natural catastrophes such as flash floods, heat waves and dust storms. Nicodemus Okangu, the Branch Co-ordinator of the Kenya Red Cross in Turkana County, believes that with the right technology, food security, can be achieved in the county. “We did a needs assessment and a lot of planning to ensure that the food security project we start will be sustained. We identified four sites in Kaikor Division then started this project in 2012. We sank four boreholes and installed solar panels. We then adopted drip irrigation and installed shadenets and also started open grounds. The community here now grows, maize, sorgum, tomatoes, butternuts, and watermelons,” he says. With Sh125 million, they bought 1,365 households a quarter acre of land each fitted with drip systems. Each household is now preparing for its second maize and sorghum harvests. “The needs of Turkana County are enormous. This just shows that food security is possible in Turkana County. We should stop giving these people food aid only and focus on long-term projects that will sustain them. Food distribution is very expensive, and is not sustainable.” Okangu observes. Ruth Amankori Chori, a beneficiary of the project, nearly lost her childrenat one point. “Two years ago, we were like corpses but today can put food on the table, and not from aid, but from our own land,” she says. Yet the government still has no concrete plans. The National Drought Management Authority Less than 5 5 - 10 10 - 15 15 - 20 20 - 25 above 25 AFRICA HUNGER INDEX 2013 SOURCE: International Food Policy Research Institute in Turkana is still talking of reviving the irrigation schemes, but there is no indication of when. Meanwhile, the wailing in Lodeiya’s manyatta has become unbearable. The frail man stands, ties a leso tightly around his waist and heads for the forest. He needs to get his children something to eat. “The only thing I can give them now is the mkoma. Every time they eat it, they pass diarrhoea and get very thirsty, but I have no option,” he says. We eventually leave, haunted by the faces of hungry people who do not know where their next meal will come from.
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